A newcomer to the Marrickville scene is Illi Hill (named after the fact that it is at the top of Illawarra Road) which is located on the site of a much-loved corner store. Winning the hearts and minds of the locals was always going to be tough but I can say without a doubt (and the aforementioned locals would agree) that owners Oleh Sokolovsky and Perry Silvio have well and truly triumphed!
While driving past one day, Oleh spotted that the property was for sale and knew that it had potential to be turned into a café. Within a matter of months, business has started to boom and this can be attributed to a combination of an exciting menu, friendly faces and sustainable, eco-friendly practices & partners.
“Feather and Bone provides us with meat from sustainably raised animals with guaranteed provenance” Oleh explained. AC Butchery is the artisan local and provides the excellent quality meats (trust me on this, they were fantastic). Illi Hill’s primary egg supplier is a “small-scale farmer with genuine free-range and rescued hen.” Now this is a business I could get behind.
I felt extremely guilty when I arrived with some of my guests for this morning’s review because we were late and another member of our party had been holding two tables and some seats for a few minutes. Not good practice at any busy establishment and I do apologise. We made it worth Illi Hill’s time though as when I come to eat, I come to eat big…
Once again I’m featuring a café that embraces the rich, aromatic wonder that is The Little Marionette coffee. The barrista and part owner behind the magic is the seasoned Perry Silvio who would be well known by those who have visited Bertoni in Balmain, a spot that I frequent but have never divulged until now and watched it bloom from hole-in-the-wall to burgeoning business!
Perry’s expertise shone through as our expertly brewed cups ($3.50) were brimming with the caramel tones of “Sanchez” or Blend 7 from The Little Marionette range. It’s a darker roast and one that you’re sure to love.
Illi Hill’s equivalent of the ubiquitous bacon and egg roll is their free range ham and double egg roll ($11.90). It was not only presented well but comes highly recommended thanks to the roll being packed with thick cut ham and a sweet housemade pimento relish as well as roasted garlic aioli. When this dish hit the table, I thought that if Illi Hill could uphold this calibre, we were onto a winner…
I wasn’t disappointed with the jamon serrano ($13.90) which serves waves of the tender cured meat on top of delicious, crunchy sourdough. The poached egg was perfectly prepared and topped with shaved pecorino, watercress and truffle oil. The toast as well as all other bread is supplied by The Bread And Butter Project which invests all of their profit into “training and employment pathways for communities in need.” The jamon serrano fell apart in my mouth yet the slices still retained their texture and the cured flavours were even and fantastic.
The avocado smash ($13.90) was a popular dish at our table and unanimously enjoyed. The generous side of Crystal Valley pasture raised bacon for one of my guests was only $4.50. The thick layer of avocado, drizzled with black sesame seeds was only served on one slice but there was enough to spread it across to both. Served above the avocado was wild rocket and a small amount of feta and number of baby tomatoes. I would have liked to see more of the last two ingredients but my guests had no complaints.
The description of the ricotta and buttermilk hotcakes ($15.50) was simply too enticing for me to ignore. I’m glad to have tried them because I would definitely order them again even if only to share! The hotcakes were quite big but the consistency was spot on. I made sure to rub each piece through the orange and saffron glaze which featured a flavour that I haven’t experienced before for breakfast. I love unique flavours so this was bliss. The top of the tower was made up of a saffron-poached pear which held its consistency but was soft enough to easily cut with a spoon. The plate was dotted with crumbled chocolate praline and pistachios… more brilliance from the kitchen! Vanilla bean labneh was served on the side.
Don’t expect to find all of these dishes when you visit as the menu is seasonal. By now though you should have a good idea of the competencies of this kitchen which is headed by Jesus Estevez who is influenced heavily by Spanish flavours and comes straight from a two year stint at Bar Nosh, Erskineville.
Some other dishes of the moment though include housemade untoasted muesli with seasonal fruits, Country Valley natural yoghurt, milk or soy milk ($9.90) and the baked eggs braised white beans, sugar peas, balsamic field mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, feta, fresh herbs, pepita dukkah and sourdough toast ($16.50).
Congratulations to Oleh and the Illi Hill team on creating a café that makes me want to come back again and again! Outdoor seating is on the way so stay tuned…
Overall Rating: 19.5/25
Phone: 0408 609 879
Address: 72 Illawarra Road, Marrickville, 2204
Payment Options: Credit card, EFTPOS, cash